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Paula Deen Supporters Take to Facebook; Deen to Appear on 'TODAY' Wednesday

Paula Deen Supporters Take to Facebook; Deen to Appear on 'TODAY' Wednesday


Last week, Paula Deen was officially cut from Food Network after releasing two apology videos following the circulation of a transcript where Deen admits she used the 'N' word and made racist jokes.

Since then, however, plenty has happened; Deen has issued two statements regarding her release from Food Network, telling TODAY, "I would like to thank the Food Network for 11 great years. Because of the gift the Food Network gave me, I have had the pleasure of being allowed into so many homes across the country and meeting people who have shared with me the most touching and personal stories."

People magazine received a similarly worded statement from Deen Saturday, where she added, "This would not have been possible without the Food Network. Thank you again. Love and best dishes to all of ya'll."

Furthermore, the world will be hearing more from Deen as she returns to the TODAY show on Wednesday for an exclusive interview, making up her absence last week.

In the meantime, the public's response to Deen's comments and her subsequent firing seems to be mixed. Plenty of supporters have gone online, with the "We Support Paula Deen" Facebook page gaining some 290,000 followers. "Anyone who grew up in the '50s and '60s at one time or another used the very word Paula is being crushed for. It was the world we lived in then — right, wrong, or indifferent — it was just the way it was. We have now grown up and as a county we continue to work on equal treatment for everyone," one commenter wrote.

Other Paula Deen supporters have headed to the Food Network Facebook page to express similar sentiments, while others have applauded Food Network for their decision. "I'm not perfect, hardly. But I have never and will never use a racial slur. Oh, and people who use them 'once' usually have a habit of using them. She has no place on the Food Network. Any credible company would have responded in the same manner," one commenter wrote.

Finally, Deen's own former PR representative Nancy Assuncao went on a media tour this weekend to discuss the move, and while she told Anderson Cooper that she found Deen's response "cringe-worthy," it seemed like she was trying to defend Deen, just a little. "I know this woman's heart; I may not have always agreed with how she ran her business or the direction it may have taken, clearly there were mistakes made..." Assuncao says before getting cut off by Cooper.

"I don't think she was presented in the best light, and it's sad all around," Assuncao goes on to say.


Paula Deen: I'm Not a Racist

The folksy Southern cooking queen tearfully took to NBC's "Today" show Wednesday for the first time to talk about the racism scandal that has rocked her cooking empire. She said she is “somewhat in a state of shock” over what were “hurtful lies said about me.”

Asked by host Matt Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen said, "No, I'm not."

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“If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wished they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me,” Deen said near the end of her interview. "Please, I want to meet you. I want to meet you. I is what I is and I'm not changing."

In the wake of revelations that Deen admitted to having used the N-word in the past and considered throwing a plantation-style wedding, the Food Network and Smithfield Foods cut ties with the celebrity cook. The home shopping channel QVC said it was reviewing its business relationship with her and casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. said Wednesday it planned to "part ways" and re-brand its Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties.

Deen stressed that she still has plenty of supporters and that her "Today" appearance was not intented to stop the financial bleeding. She said that she wanted people to "know who I am."

Pressed on the issue, Deen said, “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No."

Deen, 66, was originally slated to appear on “Today” last Friday amid the height of the N-word controversy sparked by a deposition in a court case, but canceled last minute.

She posted two online video apologies hours later begging for forgiveness from her fans for having used racial slurs. In one of the YouTube videos, Deen apologized to Lauer for having been “physically unable” to make the “Today” interview.

Deen has been under fire since a former manager of a Savannah, Ga., restaurant owned by Deen and her brother filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against the pair. The employee, Lisa Jackson, claimed she was sexually harassed by Bubba Hiers and that Deen used the N-word around her.

"Yes, of course," Deen said in the May 17 deposition of having used the slur, adding, "It's been a very long time."

But she told Lauer Wednesday that she had only used the N-word once in 1986 in reference to a black man who held a gun to her head.

“I know my love for people, and I’m not going to sit here and tell everything I’ve done for people of color,” Deen said, adding that "somebody else can tell that."

Deen did not regret telling the truth in her court deposition and the only people she's prejudiced against are thieves and liars, she said.

Asked about her comments in court that she can't determine what offends another person, Deen brought up what she hears in the kitchens of her restaurants.

"It’s very distressing for me to go into my kitchens and I hear what these young people are calling themselves," Deen said. "It’s very distressing for me because I think that for this problem to be worked on that these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other and not showing this word at each other."

Deen said she counted Rev. Jesse Jackson among her supporters and to "never underestimate the power of those voices because these people who have met me and know me and love me, they’re as angry as the people are that are reading these stories that are lies."

Deen is the author of 14 cookbooks that have sold more than eight million copies. Her media empire also includes the bimonthly magazine "Cooking with Paula Deen" with circulation of nearly one million, according to her website.


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Paula Deen's Fans Defend Her in Wake of Controversy

After the Food Network announced on Friday that Paula Deen's contract would not be renewed in the wake of controversy, her legion of fans took to social media over the weekend to voice their displeasure.

Deen, 66, has been under fire since details emerged from a May 17 deposition in which she admitted using racial slurs, particularly the N-word. On Friday, she was a no-show for a scheduled interview with Matt Lauer on TODAY, claiming she was exhausted. She is now scheduled to appear in an exclusive live interview with Lauer on TODAY Wednesday.

On Friday, Deen posted three short videos on YouTube apologizing for using "inappropriate, hurtful language,'' and for failing to show up for the scheduled interview with Lauer. After the videos were posted, the Food Network announced it was severing ties with the popular Deen after 11 years with the network.

Over the weekend, numerous Facebook pages supporting Deen and calling for a boycott of the Food Network popped up, with several garnering thousands of likes. "Show me an adult person who has not said the N word in his life, black or white. You without sin cast the first stone,'' one commenter wrote.

The Food Network's official Facebook page also was bombarded by Deen fans. A post of a recipe for zucchini casserole became a forum for fans to air their grievances. "It is shameful the way you are treating Paula Deen," one wrote, while another wrote, "I hope this move hits you hard in your pockets."

"I'm not surprised that Paula Deen's fans have reached out for her, but the Food Network is not that concerned about a few thousand people on social media,'' media analyst Steve Adubato said on TODAY Monday. "They have to be concerned about sponsors."

The line at Deen's restaurant in Savannah, Ga., The Lady and Sons, was out the door all weekend as local residents showed their support.

"I commend her by even apologizing,'' diner Michael Schneller told TODAY outside the restaurant. "I know a lot of our political leaders in the nation can't even say they're sorry.''

Deen has also been heavily criticized on social media, and her business relationship with shopping channel QVC also could be in jeopardy.

"QVC shares the concerns being raised around the unfortunate Paula Deen situation,'' Vice President of Corporate Communications Paul Capelli said in a statement over the weekend. "QVC does not tolerate discriminatory behavior. We are closely monitoring these events and the ongoing litigation. We are reviewing our business relationship with Ms. Deen, and in the meantime, we have no immediate plans to have her appear on QVC."

The fallout from the controversy has left Deen's career at a crossroads.

"I think she's going to have a much harder time than a Martha Stewart,'' Adubato said. "I think she is as close to dead as a brand as you can find out there. It could happen, but it's an incredibly long shot."


Paula Deen: I would not have fired me

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, a public relations and branding agency, calls her appearance a "non-apology" of Nixonian proportions. "(Former President Richard Nixon) never apologized by saying he was guilty or wrong about Watergate she was the same way," he said.

And Golightly admits, "Toward the end it was kind of bizarre."

"From a PR aspect, what people wanted to know is -- could there be any more fallout, any more shoes to drop," he says. But Deen's categorically saying she'd never used the N-word other than what has already been discussed was a terrible move. "From a PR standpoint, that's a horrendous scandal. Now if anyone ever comes out with anything, ever caught her on a cell phone making a racial slur, she's done."


Epicurean Butter thinks Deen should "be allowed to move on."

The producer of Deen's "Sourthern Grillin' Butter" wrote a statement backing the celebrity chef:

"Count Epicurean Butter as a partner that supports Paula Deen. Her appearance on the Today show clearly proved her authentic belief that all people should be treated equal. Paula is due equal treatment as well, as a person that made a mistake, apologized for it and should be allowed to move on. Actions speak louder than words, let's focus on the good that Paula Deen does for the extended community of loyal followers."


Paula Deen: I would not have fired me

When asked by Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen replied simply, "No." Then she added, "I believe that … every one of God’s creatures was created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal, that’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life."

When Lauer asked if Deen, who was let go from the Food Network Friday, believed her offense was a fireable one, Deen said it was not.

"Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No," she said. "I am so very thankful for the partners I have who believe in me." Unfortunately for Deen, most of those partners would drop her by Friday.

The fallout from Deen’s admission that she’s used the N-word and had considered throwing a “plantation-style” wedding – which came to light during a legal deposition on May 17 and went public early last week – was fast and furious. By Friday, Food Network announced it was canceling Deen’s contract, after she failed to appear for a scheduled interview with Lauer and started posting a series of strange apology videos on YouTube.

By Monday, Smithfield Foods terminated its partnership with Deen, who raked in $17 million in 2012 through all her ventures and was the fourth highest paid chef last year, according to Forbes.

And the fallout continued Wednesday morning. Less than two hours after Deen's interview with Lauer, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, which operates Paula Deen-themed restaurants at four of its properties, ended its relationship with her. Hours later, Wal-Mart said it would stop selling Paula Deen-branded products as well, and by Friday, Target, Home Depot, QVC and Sears had all followed suit. [UPDATED on Friday, June 28]


Paula Deen Fans Flock to Her Cruise to Show Support

The struggling TV chef will set sail with about 1,000 guests next year, says an executive at a New Jersey-based travel agency.

Erin Carlson

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Where other Paula Deen sponsors are dropping like flies, a small travel agency in New Jersey that handles booking for the “Paula Deen Cruise” continues to stand by the embattled former Food Network personality amid popular demand.

Phyllis Loverdi, vice president of Fairfield, N.J.-based Alice Travel, tells The Hollywood Reporter that since Deen’s troubles began, fans have been calling the company and signing up for excursions in January 2014 and another one for the summer of that year, possibly in July, that were in the works pre-scandal. “Some want to go on both,” said Loverdi, adding: “Somebody said she would never go on a cruise and would go on this one with Paula.”

The Paula Deen Cruise is held on Royal Caribbean ships, and Deen remains aboard during each excursion, spending much time with guests, says Loverdi. The last cruise set sail in January with about 500 fans along for the ride. Loverdi said she expects about 1,000 in total for next year. Deen launched her cruise line in 2009.

Earlier this week, a rep for Royal Caribbean Ltd. told THR that the company “has never had a partnership or any formal association with Paula Deen. She has sailed with our brands a couple of times, but as host of group cruises, and each time, the groups were booked through a specific travel agency, not through Royal Caribbean.”

Meanwhile, Deen, 66, is watching her self-made empire crumble around her. In the past few days, many of her business partners have cut the culinary star loose after she admitted to having used the N-word (and other revelations) during a deposition in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a former restaurant employee. Last week, the Food Network said it would not renew her contract when it expires at the end of month. Then, on Monday, she lost her endorsement deal with pork company Smithfield, which for many years has sold a ham with Deen&rsquos name and face on it. After that, others followed: Walmart, Home Depot and Caesars Entertainment on Wednesday, hours after Deen’s tearful Today show interview Target and diabetes-drug maker Novo Nordisk on Thursday hanging in the balance are her deals with QVC, Sears and Kmart.

At the same time, sales of her forthcoming cookbook, Paula Deen&rsquos New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up, have skyrocketed to the top of Amazon’s sales chart ahead of its October release. And several of Deen’s business partners issued letters of support this week, including Epicurean Butter and Sandridge Food Corporation.

During her sit-down with Matt Lauer, Deen emphatically denied charges of racism, saying: “If there’s anyone out there that has never said something that they wish they could take back, if you’re out there, please pick up that stone and throw it so hard at my head that it kills me. Please. I want to meet you.” She added: “I’m not changing — there’s someone evil out there who saw what I worked for and wanted it.”

When asked whether she knew the N-word was offensive to black people, Deen — seemingly unaware of the historical significance of the word — responded: “I don’t know. I have asked myself that so many times. It’s very distressing for me to go into kitchens and hear what these young people are calling each other. … I think for this problem to be worked on, these young people are gonna have to take control and start showing respect for each other.”


Online History

Paula Deen launched her personal website [18] in 2006 [19] to advertise her Savannah, Georgia restaurant The Lady & Sons. In 2009, she launched an interactive web series titled Get Cookin’ with Paula Deen (shown below) on her YouTube channel, [20] which ran through the end of that year. In January 2010, Deen established a Facebook page [21] , which has more than 53,000 likes as of June 2013. Deen also maintains an active Twitter account [22] with more than a million followers.


Food Network English Peas Recipe

In November 2010, several recipe articles hosted on Food Network's official website became the target of tongue-in-cheek parody reviews for their overly simplistic cooking instructions. Among them were Paula Deen's recipe for english peas, which directed the readers to melt butter in small pot and cook the peas until they're warm.


Paula Deen Riding Things

Paula Deen RIding Things is a photoshop meme which spawned from a photograph of Deen playfully riding chef Robert Irvine at the February 2011 South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The day after the event, the single topic blog Paula Deen Riding Things [1] launched, posting 13 photoshopped images of Deen riding things including sticks of butter, whales and roller coasters. After late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon tweeted a link to the blog, it began to draw attention from a number of internet culture blogs and news media, leading to Deen browsing the images on a Today show appearance in March. That December, TIME named Paula Deen Riding Things one of the Top Ten Memes of 2011.


#PaulasBestDishes

Immediately following the news media coverage [6] [7] of Paula Deen's racial slur scandal in June 2013, Twitter users co-opted the promotional hashtag from Deen’s Food Network show Paula’s Best Dishes [8] by incorporating racist jokes into names of foods and traditional dishes. That day, numerous blogs shared compilations of tweets from the trending hashtag, including Eater [11] , Salon [12] , The Root [13] , New Media Rockstars [14] , Fox News [15] and Heavy. [16] According to Topsy [9] , the hashtag #PaulasBestDishes [10] was used more than 13,000 times on June 19th.




Paula Deen Network: folksy, extremely unhealthy and definitely not racist

V isiting the Paula Deen Network for the first time is quite an experience. A seemingly still image of Deen suddenly bursts into life, bombarding the senses with that distinctive Georgia accent, that trademark bouffant hair and an array of enthusiastic hand gestures.

“Hey y’all! I’m so excited to welcome everybody to the Paula Deen digital network!” she announces, as the viewer scrambles for the volume control.

“It’s full of new cooking shows, great recipes and online tools y’all that is going to make meal planning and cooking so easy and so fun!”

One year after the racism scandal that saw Deen’s television show dropped by the Food Network and her corporate sponsors flee, this is her attempt at a comeback: a subscriber-only channel posting new video recipes each week.

Production began over the summer, according to a press release, and promised mini-series include “Paula’s five & dime”, in which the host creates five-ingredient dishes in under 10 minutes, and the tenuously-titled “Deen there done that”, in which audience members (there appears to be space in Deen’s kitchen for around 15 spectators) are quizzed on their Paula Deen knowledge.

There is no reference to Deen’s racism scandal in any of the quiz questions, or indeed anywhere on the new network – aside, perhaps, from an implicit one in the introductory video, which features two African Americans within the first 18 seconds.

It was June 2013 when it emerged that Deen had admitted that she had “of course” used “the N-word” in the past. She made the confession in a deposition for a discrimination lawsuit, adding: “It’s been a very long time”. In an emotional interview on the Today show shortly after the controversy Deen claimed she had only ever used the term once, during a bank robbery, but stopped short of a full apology. She was dropped by the Food Network, and by a host of sponsors including Walmart, QVC and Target.

A recipe on the Paula Deen Network’s website. Photograph: uncredited/AP

Deen returned to the Today Show on Tuesday to promote her food network. She stressed to host Matt Lauer that the discrimination lawsuit against her had eventually been thrown out by a judge – but that “got almost no attention”. While it is true that the lawsuit was dismissed, it was Deen’s racist comments that had brought the initial attention, rather than the legal action itself. (Deen did not dispute that she made the remarks.)

In an interview later in the morning, this time with Today hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb, Deen again focussed more on the impact her words had had on her own life, instead of the offence she might have caused. She had been “blindsided” by the scandal, Deen said. “I am still the same person I’ve always been. I haven’t changed.”

The network that Deen has re-emerged to promote is available for $9.99 per month or $7.99 a month when committing to 12 months. Deen will be hoping there is a large enough base of fans who are unperturbed by her court confessions to sustain the network, which has also purchased the rights to her old Food Network shows and will stream them alongside new content.

Deen built her food empire on folksy charm, and there is no departure from that on her new platform. Born and raised in Georgia, Deen’s use of language – when free from racial slurs – in particular is undeniably alluring. Fans of the phrase “y’all” are in for a particular treat, while a personal favourite phrase (from over two hours of viewing on Wednesday) came when Deen added an extra knob of butter to a plate of pasta, prompting her to exclaim: “Oh you know what! Look over here! A piece of butter done fell on my pasta. I do not believe it. Straight on to my pasta it fell!”

Sons Bobby and Jamie – Bobby looks like a nightclub bouncer, Jamie like a catalogue model – make regular appearances alongside their mother, as do several friends, with the Deen message coming through loud and clear through most of the five minute videos. (“Family woman!”, “Lots of friends!”, “Not a racist!”)

The short length of each recipe video creates something of a conflict, however, with Deen’s stated intent of regularly hosting friends and family. The lack of time to introduce and interact with this array of characters regularly leads to a comically surreal air as guests are introduced without any explanation as to their presence.

In Deen’s first video, “That’s Amore Soup”, the 67-year-old and son Bobby are joined in the kitchen by four people who Deen describes as a sex therapist, a psychologist, a wedding planner and Deen’s “best friend” (whose attendance at least makes some sense). This unlikely, but enticing, group is introduced without explanation and abruptly ignored for the rest of the video.

There’s a similar feel in the third video – about how to make a coconut cake – when three minutes into the film it is revealed that there is a piglet running amok in the kitchen.

Deen pauses cooking to pursue the piglet with her grandson, succeeds only in making it squeal and run around faster, declares the piglet’s name to be “Heaven”, then returns to making the cake, giving no further mention to the piglet and no explanation as to how or why there is a piglet loose in her house.

Later on in the network’s video library the wedding planner from the Amore soup film, this time introduced by his name, Bruce Beaird, makes a much welcome return and is revealed as a larger-than-life character. “We’re making brownies!” Deen tells Beaird at the beginning. “Ooooh!” Beaird squeals, throwing his hands in the air, and proceeding to be merrily camp throughout. (The brownies, like many recipes on the site, require mounds of sugar – Deen was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2012 and has long been criticised for her unhealthy cuisine.)

The camp theme runs through much of the content on the site – as evidenced by the promisingly titled series: “What did Paula Deen just put in my mouth?” The first installment features son Bobby, inexplicably clad in moustache and wig, watching his mother put things – food stuffs only – into the mouths of blindfolded women. It was not immediately clear what the purpose of this was, but everyone involved seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Deen has promised that a documentary is forthcoming on her network which will address some of the issues of the last year: “Because I feel like everybody needs to know the full story.”

Until then, though, it is just these video shorts – unashamedly camp, extremely unhealthy and definitely not racist.